After realizing that some students’ had outstanding balances on Monday, a child-nutrition department snatched up the meals of as many as 40 students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City. The lunches, which had already been distributed to them from the cafeteria, were not only seized from students with negative balances but thrown in the trash by school authorities.
The students were then ever so graciously handed an orange and given milk instead.
“She took my lunch away and said, ‘Go get a milk,'” fifth-grader Sophia Isom told KSL. “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account, so you can’t get lunch.'”
“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” Sophia’s mom, Erica Lukes, told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I think it’s despicable. These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up.”
An onslaught of criticism has hit the school’s Facebook page. District officials have been denounced for their “heartless” and “inhumane” behavior, with many calling them bullies on a power trip.
The Salt Lake City School District later attempted to mitigate the situation, posting an apology to Facebook:
Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment. The children who didn’t have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk.
This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize…
We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.